Dec 07 2019

Late Zelda: Breath Of The Wild Review

Pretty much a heavyweight contender for Game of the Decade, this has been an absolute mesmerising playthrough from start to finish. You would do well to find a fault with this game, like who doesn’t enjoy shield surfing!

As I don’t yet own a switch, and wanted to play the game on atleast original hardware rather than 4K PC emulation as everybody else has opted for, I decided to acquire my copy for the Wii U. I will say I was actually a little disappointed that the Wii U touchscreen isn’t utilised in-game as a second screen for selecting items etc such as 3DS titles have done, but there is still the ability to play the game remotely on the tablet if the TV isn’t available, which to be honest I did do a few times whilst waiting by the PC for it to complete something.

The graphics and performance seem to hold up perfectly fine on the Wii U. Resolution is fine at 720p, LOD is perfectly reasonable, and with the exception of one town, any slowdown is minimal during exploration and combat. Whether the Switch version can offer any improvement over this, I wouldn’t really know, but having seen 4K emulation of the game, that does look really good and shows what the game and engine are truly capable of. The Cel-shaded graphics are no longer cel-shaded, opting more closer to realism than cartoon. Character models are well tessellated, and animations are wild and lifelike. Particle effects are on point, with Guardian explosions showering you in blue sparks and grass shavings blowing past you on a blustery mountain landscape.

I do feel sorry for those who originally purchased a Wii U back in the day, promised a Zelda release, only for the game to be pushed back so many years to tie into the Switch release to sell consoles. I feel those players were ripped off, left with a console with the tiniest library of games. And even the Switch on release only received re-releases of Wii U games, but I’ll save that rant for another article.

The game begins with an adult Link awakened from a deep 100 year slumber, memories gone of a time now lost to ruin. Acquiring a damaged (Wii U tablet-esque) sheikah slate, the hero makes his way to the light at the end of the tunnel, to come out onto a billowing hillside, staring upon miles of open landscape as far as the eye can see. The sense of adventure and child-like wonder already exasperating through the grip on my controller, eager to explore every nook and cranny. But first things first, let’s chat to the old man by the fire who has a quest for us.

The game’s end goal is to defeat Ganon, who has been trapped within Hyrule Castle for the past 100 years, having come back after being banished thousands of years ago. You could if you feel brave and stupid enough, head straight to Hyrule Castle to confront him after completing the Grand Plateau tutorials, and attempt to take him on with wooden staves and 3 hearts, which there are playthroughs on YouTube of. Alternatively, you can cross the land, seeking out the 4 divine beasts that roam the land, having been corrupted by Ganon’s power. The beasts consisted of completing a dungeon within them, utilising the sheikah slate to interact with the beast to open new areas within, and defeating each of the Ganon summoned entities. Freeing the beasts will reward you with powers, easing your exploration across the bountiful map, alongside weakening Ganon in the final battle. There are also some DLC missions that tie into the divine beasts, boosting your acquired powers, which I do recommend completing before the final showdown. I do feel that the DLC was a cheeky move on Nintendo’s part in what I feel should have been content included in the base game, as it also relates to the base story. Exploring the map will reward Link memories of his past and encounters with Zelda, as the two previously prepared for the prophesied return of Ganon.

From the onset of the game, Link is free to roam the Grand Plateau, running and climbing across any obstacles, including mountains, aslong as his Stamina doesn’t become completely depleted. The climbing is a great mechanic, really exploring that third dimension, as you scale for shortcuts, treasure and ore. Once completing the Plateau, Link obtains the glider, that allows him to glide from height far distances. The glider comes out at a press of button whilst falling, and can be as easily put away for quick descents. Thermals will take you back up, allowing you to travel longer distances, just as long as you have enough remaining stamina to cling onto your glider, otherwise you can replenish it mid-flight by eating food. Food is a big part of the game, with ingredients accumulated across the land and in shops, as you try various recipes by the cook pot to make successes or failures that will replenish health, stamina and bestow beneficial status effects such as increased stealth or toughness.


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Combat is fantastic. Each enemy requires a different method of attack to ensure minimal damage to the player, sometimes stretching combat out to 10 minutes for a single enemy as you decipher their weak spots whilst working through the correct weapon to use. There are an absolute multitude of weapons to choose from, with various damage stats and durability, in which you will attack enemies with a 5 hit skele arm to save having to use a 40 hit broadsword for actual trouble. Swords, mops, crossbows and shields can be collected and used throughout the game, with the ability to increase your inventory storage capacity as you collect Korok seeds and trade them in (Can you collect all 900 whilst Zelda desperately holds back the power the Ganon?). The Master Sword can be acquired in Korok forest, which will regenerate after awhile when it’s durability has depleted. Again, there is DLC that should be have really been included within the game that gives you the chance to progress through challenges and strengthen the sword to it’s final form, with the ability to shoot charged beams with full hearts.

Guardians are new to the series, animatronic spiders that shoot devastating laser blasts from their cyclops eye. Having been originally built to defeat Ganon by a previous age of sheiks, Ganon in his return has corrupted these to turn against their new masters. The weak points are it’s eye and legs, but getting anywhere near can be a challenge as they can spot you coming from a mile, even when flying down towards them, lasers will blast up as our hero dismantles his glider to instantly drop a few feet out of the path of the beam. Shields are great for deflecting laser beams, otherwise a wrongly timed deflection will result in the shield shattering to pieces. There was a cool temple in the game in which 6 Guardians will train their charge on you as soon as you walk in. A well timed deflection will reduce all 6 to ash and massive kudos.

Link acquires additional health and stamina by completing Shrines scattered across the Hyrule. There are initially 120 shrines to uncover, with each shrine tied to a mini challege that will reward a spirit orb. The challenges can consist of going one-on-one with a 3 armed Guardian, utilising the sheikah slate’s powers and solving puzzles. One of the favourite external challenges I had fun with was washing ashore on an island off Hyrule, in which a mysterious voice removed you of your articles of clothing, weapons and supplies, meaning you had to start from scratch on a storm swept island looking for supplies to defeat the island’s populace of monsters and carry orbs back to their correct podiums. Stealth alongside other skills were to be utilised to their maximum. Again, the DLC expanded on some of these shrine challenges, and were actually more difficult and fun to complete, as a normal shrine could be speedrun through within mere seconds once you got the hang of them.

The sheikah slate throughout the game is a go-to tool, providing numerous powers and abilities to Link through the acquirement of runes. Once fully powered, the sheikah slate will provide a map of Hyrule and the local area, telescopic lens functionality, ability to control divine beasts, teleport to discovered shrines and sheikah towers, summon a DLC crossbike plus horses wearing a DLC saddle, as well as actually lending powers to Link such as magnetism to move large metal objects, create ice podiums for climbing and blocking water flow, stop time for a selected object which allows kinetic energy to be stored for a short time, i.e storing the charge of 10 sword hits on a boulder to shift it plus the power to create spherical or cube bombs depending on whether you want the bomb to roll or not. The sheikah runes assist in solving puzzles, and are a fun alternative to using weapons in certain scenarios.

The world, animals, landscape and npcs feel lifelike, all behaving different dependant on time of day and status of quests. NPCs are as zany as ever, having distinct personalities. Sadly, very little voice acting other than the few main characters. The only point I’d knock off this game, making it a 99/100 was Zelda’s voice actress, I just found her too whimsical and breathless and exasperated, too similar to cringe anime traits. It did ruin a few cutscenes for me (maybe it’s just me), but sadly the only thing to let the whole game down.

There are many easter eggs hidden throughout the world, and with the many biomes and locations, every time I said to myself I’d seen it all after 150 hours gameplay, there was still something new to surprise and entertain me, keeping me enthralled in the game. The game contains a few updates since release that provide additional gameplay features such as keeping track of routes taken across the land, etc. Exploration never really ever felt like a chore, using the sheikah slate to sense nearby shrines and itching that korok scratch. To recount all the adventures and many hours of gameplay in this article would make it 20,000 words long and still wouldn’t do the game any justice. This is one game I recommend everyone has to play within their lifetime. Fun for all age ranges and an instant cult classic.

I’m looking forward to BOTW2 after it’s announcement a few months back, though still many years to come yet. At which point, if no new Nintendo console, I will definitely pick up a Switch to play this sequel. It’s hard to come-up with any improvements for this game, other than having a new world to explore and making the puzzles a tad more difficult (I’m looking at you OoT Water Temple). Whilst the soundtrack in BOTW was nice, at times it was so so quiet. Some really good pieces hidden due to being so low volume and un-noticed due to gameplay background noise. I could only hear some of these songs by pausing the game in the menu, and turning my surround sound upto its absolute MAX, it just made no sense, so hopefully this is something they’ll not forget about in the next one, as music has always been central to the series.

Closing words, I enjoyed every hour I spent in this game. There was so much to explore and varied ways of interacting with the world. The AI was lifelike and the story was enjoyable. The anime style was on point and even on a Wii U, the graphics absolutely shine through. This really has to be a must play for anyone, even for none-gamers, to understand the attraction of what games can offer. BOTW leads the way for how games should feel and play, and is seriously a contender for game of the decade, nevermind year if there was ever such an award. As a rule, I normally sell a game on after completing, but this one is sitting on my shelf mantle alongside my other treasures – Final Fantasy 9 and Unreal Championship 2.


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